Friday, December 18, 2015

The War on Christmas




As part of my annual "War on Christmas," I submitted an entry for the local paper's segment on Christmas Stories. From the paper's website:

"The stories of Christmas have been a Dispatch favorite since 1988. Each year we get wonderful stories, some humorous and light-hearted; others are thoughtful, touching remembrances. Winners are published in the Christmas Eve edition of the Dispatch. Stories should be 300 words or less."

My submission:

"
I’m an atheist. But if you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I will tell you it’s Christmas. Hands down. No contest. For me, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I struggled with my utter devotion to Christmas for a few years after becoming an atheist. I felt like a hypocrite; rejecting religion on the one hand, while embracing a religious holiday on the other. 

But after doing some basic research into the roots of Christmas, I was able to relax and enjoy the holiday for what it really is; a break from the cold days of winter. An excuse to bring some greenery and lights inside your home when it’s dark and gray outside.  An occasion to get together with all of those people you may not see during the rest of the year. An opportunity to show your love through food. A chance to watch your children’s eyes light up as they open that present they’ve been begging for. A time to remember your own childhood, and reminisce with the ones you love.  All of these things remain special and magical to us, even if Jesus isn’t part of our equation. 

Your atheist neighbors aren’t out to wage a “War on Christmas.” Many of us love it just as much as you do! We just celebrate it our own way, with our own family traditions, and accept it as the cultural holiday that it is.  When we say “Happy Holidays,” it’s not because we hate Christmas.  It’s simply an acknowledgement that not everyone celebrates it. Because we know what it’s like to be part of the “out group,” and we don’t want others to feel the isolation that we’re so familiar with. So, from my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas!"


Guess we'll have to wait until next week to see if I win! :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fixing the System


So I finally watched the Vice Special Report, "Fixing The System" last night. Even though I didn't really learn anything new (I was already keenly aware of how incredibly unjust our "justice" system is), it was utterly heartbreaking to watch nonetheless. My husband had not heard the "1 in 3" stat of how many black men will end up in jail over the course of their lives, and he kept saying "1 in 3!! Jesus Christ!!" at multiple points while we were watching it. I've never felt my own privilege more keenly in my life.

Two things really disappointed me about the film though:

(1) Absolutely NO discussion of the for-profit prison model that is a huge contributing factor to how many people we jail in this country.

(2) President Obama seemed to talk more about communities of color "fixing" their communities, rather than the government actually taking action to fix the incredibly unfair systems (like the failed "war on drugs") that are in place that lead directly to this travesty of justice.

In any case, it's a must watch for everyone in America.





Monday, October 5, 2015

#IStandWithPlannedParenthood

Luckily for my avid readers, I just finished watching the shitshow of a "hearing" to de-fund Planned Parenthood, so you don't have to. I watched the first one on Sept 9th, which was similarly horrible, but the McCarthy-esque witch hunt against Cecile Richards last Tuesday was an absolute travesty beyond words. 

So, without further adieu, here is my summarized transcript of the entire hearing.

Generic Republican 1: "Thanks for coming Ms. Richards. You suck and we all hate you more than you can possibly imagine."

Cecile Richards: "No problem. I love to spend my time answering stupid questions from stupid people."

G.R.1.: "Are you aware that Planned Parenthood SELLS BABY PARTS???!!!!!"

C.R.: "No, actually we don't."

G.R.1.: "Yes you do!! I saw it on a video!!"

C.R.: "Again, no we don't."

G.R.1.: "Okay, then how about you tell me how much profit you make MURDERING INNOCENT BABIES!!"

C.R.: "We're a non-profit organization. We don't make a 'profit' on anything."

G.R.1.: "Yeah right. I'm a Republican so I know how business works. You're making a profit on abortion, and it's huge."

C.R.: "We're not a business, we're a nonprofit organization. We don't make a profit. On anything."

G.R.1.: "Why are you being so secretive about how much profit you make on abortions?!"

C.R.: "I'm not being secretive. We gave you copies of all of our financial statements already. We don't make a profit."

G.R.1.: "Look at this chart I found that shows how many abortions you do and how many Pap smears you DON'T. Why do you do so many abortions?! I hate abortions!!"

C.R.: "That chart is from an anti-abortion group. And it's not actually a chart."

G.R.1.: "Agree to disagree."

Generic Democrat 1: "I'm so sorry my idiot colleagues are being such assholes. We all know this is a charade."

C.R.: "Thanks. You rock."

Generic Republican 2: "You're a horrible person. I don't know how you sleep at night. I have grand-kids you know. Why do you want to kill my grand-kids?!."

C.R.: "I don't."

G.R.2.: "Yeah right, you just LOVE murdering grand-babies. And while we're on the subject, why should taxpayers have to pay for your abortions?"

C.R.: "They don't. Federal tax money can't go to abortion. You know this."

G.R.2.: "But you're doing it anyway, right?"

C.R.: "No."

Generic Democrat 2: "We're all so sorry these pricks are being such pricks. Seems like we could be doing something better with our time."

C.R.: "Probably."

Generic Republican 3: "Why aren't you giving people more mammograms? My mom had breast cancer, so I love mammograms. How many of those do you do?"

C.R.: "We've actually never done mammograms at Planned Parenthood. We don't have radiology facilities. We do breast exams, and refer people who need mammograms to radiology clinics. Just like every other doctor in the world."

G.R.3.: "But you 'claim' to do breast exams."

C.R.: "Actually, breast exams and mammograms are two different things."

G.R.3.: "Ha! So you ADMIT that you don't do mammograms!?"

C.R.: "Yup, you got me."

Generic Democrat 3: "Seriously though, I am SO sorry about this."

Generic Republican 4: "Ms. Richards, can you please explain to me why you 'claim' to do breast exams, when your reports show that you don't seem to do ANY mammograms?"

C.R.: "Jesus Christ. Did we not just go through this?"

G.R.4.: "I'm just trying to figure out why y'all think you're so great over there at 'Planned Parenthood' when you obviously aren't doing any of the mammograms you claim to be doing. I mean, if you 'care' about women so much, why are you letting them all die from breast cancer?!"

C.R.: <look of disbelief>

Generic Democrat 4: "I just can't even believe this shit."

Generic Republican 5: "Ms. Richards, did you know that my wife is a nurse? She's a woman. And she's pro-life. BOOM! There goes your stupid idea about women wanting choices."

C.R.: "That's great. Life is about choices. Your wife is free to believe whatever she wants to."

G.R.5.: "Have you heard the good news about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Don't you know he hates abortions? Why can't you just stop it with the abortions?! STOP IT!!! NOW!!!

C.R.: "Uuuummmmm. . . ."

Generic Democrat 5: <shakes head in sad and hopeless manner>

Generic Republican 6: "Can we go back to this mammogram issue?"

Like, 60 hours later. . . . 

Generic Republican 17: "I still don't understand why y'all are lying about the mammograms."

Generic Democrat 16: "I can't believe we're still here."

Generic Republican 18: "Let's go back to the chart we saw earlier."

C.R.: "Still not accurate, and still not a chart."

G.R.18.: "I want to know why your Pap smear numbers are going down while your abortion numbers are going up. It's because you just love doing abortions way more and are refusing to give women Pap smears, right?"

C.R.: "Actually, it's because the medical guidelines have changed so that most women only need a Pap smear every three years instead of every one year. It's science."

G.R.18.: "But that doesn't account for the number of Pap smears going down."

C.R.: "Actually, it does."

G.R.18.: "Nuh uh. You're probably just refusing to give women their Pap smears so you can free up more time for abortions. You're probably keeping women from getting Pap smears just like you're denying them mammograms. Have I mentioned what a horrible person you are?"

C.R.: "Yes, you have. Thank you."

Generic Democrat 17: "For the love of God. Is this really happening?"

Generic Republican 19: "Madam, I don't know how you sleep at night. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but you are the scum on the bottom of the devil's shoes. I wish we could still burn sinners like you alive. In fact, I'm authoring a bill to do just that as we speak. Not only do you cut up babies into tiny pieces, which I know for a fact because I heard there was a video of it, but you also have the audacity to deny women desperately needed mammograms. How dare you madam? How dare you?"

C.R.: "Was that a question?"

Generic Republican 20: "It has come to my attention that you have a higher salary than I do. I'm a Congressman. And a man! And I'm white!! How is that fair?! If you really cared about women like you claim to, you'd take all that fancy money that you spend on shoes and lipstick and use it to give women mammograms! The nerve of some people!!"

Generic Republican 21: "Can you tell me why you only give money to Democrats? I mean, Republicans like money too. Seems pretty partisan to me. Super unfair. Are you involved in some sort of conspiracy with the Democrat Party? You are, right? Why should the taxpayers give you all this money for abortions when you just turn around and give it all to the goddamned Democrats?! Huh? Explain that!!"

C.R.: "Again, taxpayers don't pay for abortions, and we'd be happy to give money to any Republicans who support a woman's right to choose. Unfortunately, they don't seem to exist."

Generic Republican 22: "Can we just get back to why you do SO MANY abortions and SO FEW mammograms??!!"

Generic Republican 23: "I still want to know why you're being so dodgy about how few Pap smears you do. Is it because you use all that taxpayer money for abortions instead?! Huh? HUH??!!"

Like, 127 hours later. . . 

Generic Democrat 23: "Well, I think we can all agree that we've learned nothing useful here today. You're welcome taxpayers.


**************************************************************************

NOTE: The above was a piece of satire. The actual hearing was about a million times more ridiculous. You can watch it here if you want your brain to melt permanently.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Congressional Sideshow

I've just spent a few hours listening to the clusterfuck that was today's House Judiciary Committee hearings on de-funding Planned Parenthood.  I can't even attempt to clarify all of my thoughts on the horror show I just witnessed, so I think I'll just go into a free-form rant.

What the fuck Congress?!

Really?! There's NOTHING more pressing to the country than putting on a 3-ring circus to trot out every tired old stereotype about abortion and Planned Parenthood?

There were four witnesses at this hearing. Three were "pro-life," and one was "pro-choice." So that's definitely fair. Not a single one of the four was actually any sort of medical expert, and not a single one had any actual affiliation with Planned Parenthood.  In fact, Planned Parenthood wasn't even invited to defend themselves!

Let's be clear. The government does not just hand over a stack of cash to Planned Parenthood every year. When they talk about "de-funding" Planned Parenthood, what they're actually talking about is just excluding people who are on Medicaid from using Planned Parenthood as their provider, and preventing Planned Parenthood from using Title X birth control funding from going to underwrite birth control expenses for Planned Parenthood patients (not abortion!). Federal money already doesn't go to abortion due to the stupid fucking Hyde Amendment.

Two of the witnesses were "abortion survivors." People who were the product of a "botched abortion." While they had heartfelt stories to tell, they had no actual understanding of what Planned Parenthood actually does; they were just there because they want to end abortion. They were trotted out as props of the anti-choice movement. Their quarrel isn't necessarily with Planned Parenthood, but with abortion in general. Abortion is already legal. End of story. So what the fuck is this even about?!

And Jesus Christ, if I had a nickel for every mention of God in this proceeding, I'd finally be a rich blogger! Is this how we legislate now? My religious feelings were hurt, so let's make it illegal? Oh yeah, I forgot, that IS how we legislate now. The religious sentiments of the minority now outweigh the rights of the majority.

And this whole "I don't want my tax dollars to fund abortion" shtick is getting just a little bit nauseating. You know what I don't want MY tax dollars going to? Crisis pregnancy centers, fighting never ending wars in the Middle East, tax breaks to corporations, need I go on? But guess what, our tax system is not รก la carte. None of us get to pick and choose what our taxes do and don't fund, except through the system by which we elect representatives. and from the Republican crop of Congressmen I just saw, we're not doing a very good job at that

All this hearing did was allow a bunch a biblical literalist blowhards to pontificate on their poor hurt feelings over the fact that their precious tax dollars go to an organization they don't agree with. An organization, to be clear, which PREVENTS more abortions than ANY other single organization in the country! What in the hell do they not get about the link between low cost birth control and preventing abortion??!!

No wonder people hate politics when this is what we have to work with! The rank stupidity and lack of ability to comprehend nuance is just gross. I get why anti-abortion advocates don't like abortion. It's easy to understand because it doesn't require any sort of thoughtful reflection. Abortion = murder, God says so, end of story. I get that. What I don't get is their willful ignorance to even attempt to understand why bodily autonomy might be important to women! I realize it requires more than a modicum of thinking to wrap your brain around, but could they at least give it a try sometime?!

I just can't. I'm so sick of this shit. We have totally given up on rationality and evidence based discussion and given in to pandering of the most sickening kind. I think I'm going to need a month long break from the media after this. If you want to watch this appalling shit show for yourself, which I would not recommend, you can do so here.  But seriously, do yourself a favor and watch cute kitten videos instead.


P.S. - If you want to hear a more thoughtful and less profane version of my thoughts on this, listen to my recent interview on the Sober Atheist podcast.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Clown Car Politics

I haven't written a post in quite some time; mainly because I have children and a job. But my favorite uncle gave me some grief about my noticeable absence at our annual family reunion, so I decided to take the 5 minutes and find something to write about.

Republicans.

Why?

Donald Trump?

Really?!

What the fu. . . .

He said what?!

Why?

Raping who?

Where?

I don't get it.

No, seriously, I don't get it.

Just why?!

Wait, I'm finding sympathy for Megyn Kelly somehow?

How did this happen?!

Seriously America?

Please stop.

I mean it.

Oh, and stop it with the other 6,000 idiot Republican candidates too. They're all horrible.

Except John Kasich. I at least probably wouldn't have to move to Sweden if he were somehow miraculously elected.

The end.

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Cloud Nine

I am positively ecstatic this morning! A few days ago, I submitted a piece for the local paper to use as a "guest editorial." After a few days, I had given up hope that it would make it through the conservative editorial staff, but this morning, I woke up to an email from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking permission to reprint my letter in their national newsletter. I quickly went to the local paper's website, and there it was. I couldn't be happier. Not only that they published it, and that it might get some national attention, but that it means other atheists and freethinkers in my small town now know that they are not alone, and that there is a community waiting for them. Here is the text of the letter:

"I recently read a guest opinion piece that seemed to make the case for religion as a necessary tool for moral behavior. As an atheist, I often hear that there can be no morality without the absolutes of the Bible (or any other holy book). However, I've found that morality can be quite easily boiled down to one simple piece of guidance, which is commonly referred to as "the golden rule." 
While the phrase "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" can be found in some form in the Bible, I'm confident that we as a species could have figured this one out on our own. It's really quite simple. Why, as an atheist, don't I run around murdering people? Because I have no desire to do so, and even if I did, I am equipped with empathy and can understand how that action would hurt someone else. Why don't I go around driving my car at 100 miles per hour when I feel like it? Because I'm aware of the danger that puts not only myself in, but my fellow humans as well should I happen to crash. 
I have had no trouble raising children without the mandates of any religion. They are simply taught to use the empathy and compassion they were born with to treat other people with respect and kindness. If they wouldn't like someone hitting them with a stick, then why would they go around hitting someone else with one? It's not a terribly difficult concept to understand, even for children. In fact, when I look around at the world today, I see a direct correlation between the people committing the worst atrocities against humanity, and religion. 
I get together regularly with a group of atheists, agnostics, and "freethinkers" as some people prefer to call themselves, and they are some of the kindest, most generous people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. And the interesting thing is, they aren't "good" because they are trying to earn their way to heaven, or win favor with a deity. They are good because they genuinely care about their fellow human beings, and want what's best for everyone. We have evolved as a species to care about each other. It's the only way we can survive. If we didn't have that sense of built in empathy, we would have become extinct long ago. 
I think it's far nobler a pursuit to really wrestle together with questions of ethics, than to evade our responsibility and just parrot edicts that were written down thousands of years ago. It's too easy to not have to really think about the consequences of our actions when we can just point to a book and say "but God said so." In no other realm of understanding is faith seen as a good way of knowing anything about the universe. We don't understand math because we take it on faith. So why should we stop wondering at the many mysteries the universe still has for us to find answers to? Leaving it to faith is giving up, and deciding that we don't need to seek any further understanding of our lives. In my opinion, that stance does not get us any further as a species. It only leaves us standing still; unable to progress and make life better for everyone."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ode to Humanity

It's easy to get down on living in a small town. Not much to do, limited options, and LOTS of Republicans to deal with. But yesterday, I had the kind of day that reminded me that it also has its perks.

I went to the tiny mall to get some earrings, and ran into a friend from high school who I now keep up with on Facebook. She just got a job at the local pharmacy I use (when you have Crohn's disease, you take a lot of meds). We talked for a little bit about our kids and the local schools, and I was reminded just how much I really like her. She's a very cool person (and she complimented me on my blog the other day at the pharmacy, which always helps). I'm looking forward to getting to know her again.

After the mall, I headed to Target to get the usual supply of make up, snacks and interesting clearanced out items that I don't actually need. At the checkout, there was an older woman behind me who got very excited when she found a DVD of The Hunger Games at the checkout. The man she was with started teasing her about liking it, and I piped in about how much I loved it too. We had a nice little moment discussing how, yes, we know it's supposed to be for teenagers, but it's still really good.

While I was checking out, a new friend of mine who works at Target stopped over to say "hi." She has attended get togethers for my atheist group a few times, and is one of those people who just immediately makes you smile, because she's always smiling too. We also shared a nice little moment bonding over our shared love of Peeps marshmallow treats. Because seriously, if you don't love Peeps, there's just something wrong with you.

After Target, it was time for my monthly coffee meet up with my atheist group. The group started small a few years ago, and has grown beyond my wildest dreams since then. I have met some of the most caring, funny, kind and generous people through this group, and I'm reminded every time we get together how lucky I am to count them as my friends. We had two new people join us (a mother and daughter), and they just instantly connected with the rest of the group. When atheists and liberals find each other in a small town, it's a beautiful thing.

Don't get me wrong; there are things I hate about living here too (way too much nature for starters). But I was reminded yesterday that I have such a great family, great neighbors, and so many great people around me who enrich my life all of the time. I would say I was blessed, if I actually believed there was anyone doing the blessing. :-)